Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Overwhelmed by the Complexity of Reality

Reading "JACK"s post below, "More Questions, No Answers," I feel a bit overwhelmed at the complexity and contradictions of immigration. I dream of a solution that I could get my head around: something quick, simple that could erase the problem.

  1. the words of Psalm 131 come to mind again: I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me. Since I am not the Ruler of the Universe, the solution of this problem does not rest on my shoulders.
  2. I'm suddenly aware of my preconceptions - my ignorance of the details of immigration: it's history, its causes, etc. Here's Fr. Giussani on preconceptions:

«preconception is irrational for at least two reasons: first, because you claim to know something you don't know, claiming to know it already - thus, it's an evident contradiction - and second, it's irrational because normally what you think you already know about what you don't know is simply what the others think, not even an original idea of your own.»

(Giussani, It Is Possible to Live this Way, p 15. Traces 1, 2008)

If we are going to examine this issue (or many others), we need first of all to (as we say in sales, especially complex sales) move off of the solution. A cultural work is needed to educate ourselves, to research and examine the variety of factors involved in immigration. Otherwise, we just end up replicating talking points produced by others.

(as I type this, I'm half listening to African American Lives 2 on PBS. A great deal of what I thought I knew about American slavery is being challenged!)


JACK said...

Of course, Fr. Giussani's right about preconceptions, but we should keep in mind other things he said about them. For example, in the Religious Sense where he's quite clear that he thinks it is silly to believe that the proper attitude in front of preconceptions is to think that they need to be eliminated, as if we can free ourselves from them. In fact, does he not suggest that we will always have them, but what must trump is our loyalty to the truth, i.e., our willingness to examine them and admit they are wrong?

Because in some ways preconceptions are no different than the principle of witness that we are talking about in School of Community. The difference is in the basis for their acceptance, with hopefully a greater degree of verification and basis for the trust in the witness than in the preconception. If our examination begins and ends with adopting a preconception, then yes it is a very bad thing. And so I rightly agree with you Fred that quoting talking points back and forth is one of the worst things that happens in our culture precisely because usually it is the opposite of examination that is going on there. But I don't worry about preconceptions if people are willing to hold them up to the light and admit when they are wrong. Because we are human. We cannot help to try and draw conclusions and judments. That's the essence of our entire journey -- a search for the meaning of our lives. And just because we might recognize on some level that the answer is Christ (and hopefully the recognition deepens over time), should we at all be surprised that we continue to be human and search for meaning and order in the world? So I don't think we need to fear preconceptions. But you are absolutely right that we need to educate ourselves. We cannot simply deconstruct talking points. But sometimes that is a helpful thing, insofar as it puts us back in front of the fact that we don't know everything and that we need to learn.

Freder1ck said...

great points, JACK.

Freder1ck said...

I was thinking also that today's discoveries are tomorrow's preconceptions. Preconception is one instrument that we have, but if we're really interested in a subject we won't be content with it alone.